By Raffique Shah
March 29, 2014
Glenn ‘Hamper Man’ Ramadharsingh is one shell-shocked politician. As the poster boy for performance in the People’s Partnership Government, he cannot understand why the Prime Minister fired him for a relatively trivial sin, when he (and she) sees and knows of other ministers who have committed far graver offences, seven and eight-digit crimes, and they remain riding tall in the saddle.
Really, even I feel sorry for Ram—and my heart is like stone when it comes to politicians, murderers and child rapists. Here is a young man who defined new politics, Partnership-style, in the most definitive way, the distribution of hampers.
In fact, Ram re-invented hampers. In my near seven decades on this earth, I’ve never seen such an array of hampers, not live, not on cable television, not on the Internet, nowhere. Ram created hampers in brown grocery bags, hampers in cane baskets, hampers wrapped in colourful gift paper, hampers in cardboard boxes…I can go on and on.
When the Government boasts of innovation, that is innovation!
As for performance, no other minister could beat the Hamper Man. Floodwaters raging, people’s houses swimming in silt, they crying rivers of tears, and Ram shows up complete in galoshes, bearing hampers. A house in wah-hi-o-ho reduced to ashes by fire, its occupants wondering where the next meal coming from: enter Ram bearing breakfast, maybe even a few ‘breakfasses’.
Hampers for Christmas, hampers for Holi, hampers for Eid, hampers for any and every occasion. Hell, he even customised hampers for the Prime Minister (ingrate!) to share like a year-round Santa Claus, her image etched on coffee mugs, T-shirts, washrags, toilet paper.
This guy breathed life into the new Ministry of the People, which was itself a creation of the Partnership when it came into office in 2010. Before that, the world assumed that all democratically elected governments, and even some dictatorships, were ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’.
Not so, the PM said. She wanted a minister with a full ministry to focus on the people while the other Cabinet members presumably focussed on themselves, their families and friends. So Ram broke new ground in many ways. He went about his job with unmatched passion and was so successful, when she relieved him of it, the PM didn’t assign that ministry to anyone else. She kept it for herself.
So we return to the original question: why did she fire Ram?
It could not be because he went somewhat overboard while onboard a CAL flight from Tobago to Trinidad. Many other ministers and party hacks committed sins ‘wuss than that’. In his day, Jack Warner chalked up a rap sheet so long, it stretched from Trinidad to Geneva to Qatar and back—and he was not fired. He resigned when he chose to. Other ministers have been implicated in a range of indiscretions and alleged corrupt acts: they have not even been investigated, far less disciplined or censured.
So why punish “Hamper Man”?
The answer lies in realpolitik, a term that might not be familiar to Ram or the PM, but one that applies neatly in this instance.
Realpolitik is politics based on practical considerations rather than moral or ideological principles. Some call it pragmatism, although that does not quite capture its full meaning. Although it’s of earlier vintage, realpolitik came of age before and during the Second World War, and later, during the Cold War.
We who studied the history of, or lived during, these epochal eras, understand the term.
In this instance, whatever her public utterances to the contrary, the PM is acutely aware that her political stocks are at an all time low. With general elections due by mid-2015, she has little time to refurbish the shine she wore in 2010, the aura that captivated the nation.
She cannot rely on her frontline ministers for help. Few among them command respect. Most, sensing that they will not control the Treasury after the elections. While some of her pet projects are well underway, but they will hardly be completed before the day of reckoning.
So Kamla can rely only on Kamla if she hopes to retain power. She must, therefore, carve the image of being a strong, no-nonsense leader who has had the fortitude to fire even her best ministers, should they be perceived by the public as having committed serious sins.
Enter Ram in a moment of stupor, throwing his ministerial weight around, and worse for him (but better for her), admitting he had done wrong and apologising for his misdemeanours.
Exit Ram in a moment of triumph for the PM: Watch me! See me dispose of one of my best! Ah strong! Ah ready for (Keith) Rowley!
Hamper Man is a sacrificial ram without even knowing it. And others will follow if they become baggage between now and the elections. The PM has nothing to lose by firing many of the seedless raisins who now occupy the front bench.
They are nothing without her. She is still the boss without them.
Poor Ram, sacrificed to Ogun, almost like a human hamper, on the eve of Spiritual Shouter Baptist Day.